At all times, man has the capacity and innate character to be good; to toe the path of progress and strive to excel in all endeavours. Sometimes, when aberrations are noticed in persons or institutions, it is due to a lack of superior engagement of people to embrace the virtues of godliness or become decent and productively useful.
It was pleasantly shocking when Nigerians conscientiously rated the Nigerian Army (NA) higher than other equally very sensitive and focal institutions of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in an opinion poll conducted by an online news medium, The Nigerian for the month of February 2017. The excitement is better appreciated when gauged from the standpoint of the motley of over 500 agencies and institutions of the federal government in existence. And from the mesh of statutory bodies, the Army came uppermost, with an embarrassing margin far above close contenders like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Security Service (DSS).
Again, the shock is pleasant; the reality is awe-inspiring and the assessors perceptively angelic, uninfluenced and fair. A rewind of some bit of history will intimate sufficiently about the rapid transformation of the Army in the change regime.
The Nigerian Army is an arm of the Nigerian armed forces, reputed as the most virile and prized among the three arms. But before July 2015, when a rugged and professional soldier, Lt.Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai was appointed the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), the world acclaimed fame of Nigerian soldiers on peace keeping missions and other special assignments across the globe nosedived and crashed for the worse and appeared irremediably rubbished.
Nigerian soldiers became effeminized and lost veneration for anything soldiering. Nigerians publicly jeered, sneered, lampooned them on social media and unapologetically dumped their image in the dustbin of ignominy. But Buratai knew the soldiers were circumstantial victims of a despoiled system and the right leadership could revive this treasured institution. Luckily, he was convinced about his ability and competence to offer the much needed leadership to the Nigerian Army. And today, less than two years on board, the narrative on the Nigerian Army has changed positively from doom to professional prosperity.
Buratai’s hard reforms in the Army berthed without pretenses and centered on professionalism, discipline, probity and transparency. Above all, the reforms yawningly yearned for respect for the human rights of Nigerians. Today, Nigerian soldiers have been re-baptised as the professionals that Nigerians can vouch for their integrity and splendor.
Palpably, soldiers are not only professionally inclined, but are friendly to the civil populace and patriotic to the cause of Nigeria. Having maintained this spirit for months, Nigerians had no hesitation in spotting men and officers of the Nigerian Army as simply the best institution in Nigeria for the month of February 2017.
In adherence to the professional reforms of Buratai in the Army, soldiers are no longer powerless or laughing stock on assignments. They deliver results timely and professionally to Nigerians. At the 2017 budget defence of the Army, the COAS disclosed that soldiers are currently deployed to 32 out of the 36 states in the federation to curb criminal insurrections such as its eradication of terrorism, cattle rustling, kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, armed banditry and communal clashes and so forth.
It is confirmation of the overwhelming presence of soldiers in the internal security operations in Nigeria. Had the previous lapses persisted, Nigerians would have easily noticed and voiced out loud in condemnations.
Its special operations like Operation Python Dance (OPD), in the Southeast for kidnapping and armed robbery; Operation Rescue Final (ORC) final onslaught that captured Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s former protective haven and Operation Crack Down (OCD) for clearing the Northeast of residues of terrorists among a litany of others are the bold signposts of a committed and professionally dedicated Nigerian Army. They have immeasurably and actively assisted sister security agencies in confronting and defeating the menace of nascent violent crimes in Nigeria. Unarguably, the Nigerian Army has reclaimed its lost glory of the days of yore.
On the civic side, Nigerian soldiers have displayed exceptional friendliness in their engagements with host communities and Nigerians generally. Gone are the days, soldiers deployed on special assignments move with military might and paraphernalia to stampede and somewhat invade a community with brute force and other human rights abuses in the process.
These days, soldiers first mingle and assimilate the cultures and traditions of host communities; build a relationship with civilians on the porter of confidence and mutual trust. It erects platform for these civilians to perceive them more as their protectors than villains.
Thereafter, they clandestinely conduct surveillance to identify problem spots or individuals. Thus armed soldiers would strictly and noiselessly trail the suspected criminals, while ultimately protecting the innocent, some of whom freely volunteer useful information to them to assist in the military campaigns to liberate Nigeria from the fangs of violent criminal gangs.
For a long time in Nigeria’s military history, it is only under Buratai that Nigerians have seen the army embarking on self-discipline. The Human Rights Desk at AHQs discipline erring soldiers like the recent demotion of two soldiers who manhandled a cripple.
Soldiers also offer free medical services to sick members of host communities in observance of corporate social responsibility .It is part of the friendly disposition of today’s soldiers that compel them to render assistance to distressed families in the predicament of kidnapping. They have rescued and reunited scores of victims with their families, without a dime paid as ransom.
Furthermore, the National Assembly, which appropriates public funds and monitors its application, also gave the army an enticing recommendation for prudence and management of scarce resources. Just recently, chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator George Akume who led other committee members on oversight function, at the Army Headquarters (AHQs) passed a soothing verdict about the conduct of soldiers, utilization of funds and competence in handling military engagements.
From these lofty attainments and grandeur repositioning of the Nigerian Army, which has remained consistent for months, Nigerians massively voted for it as institution of the month when an opinion poll was floated by The Nigerian Newspaper. The methodology adopted was the use of direct data capturing technique, which randomly related with 1,000 persons per each of the 36 states in the federation. After computation of the statistics, the Nigeria Army polled 58 per cent of the total votes; while the EFCC had 22 percent and the DSS pegged third place with 18 percent respectively. Other institutions like the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) collectively shared the remaining two per cent. This was the sound verdict of Nigerians on these institutions for the month of February 2017.
As the month of March begins, it is hoped the award by Nigerian masses to the Nigerian Army will encourage and spur soldiers to do more in the quest to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and also, cleansing the country of demonic insurrections. It should also serve as inspiration to other public institutions, that once they drive reformations within and become agents of change, they would certainly become better and more appreciated by Nigerians.
Agbese writes from Life Camp, Abuja.